The much anticipated Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice finally pits DC’s biggest heroes against each other in a battle for the death…for all of five minutes. Then Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) creates a monster and they have to team up to fight it. That’s not to say that everything leading up to it wasn’t interesting, the discussion of both the eponymous heroes’ morality was unique. However it was entirely clear – I couldn’t understand Clark Kent’s (Henry Cavill) reason to hate Batman. I could understand that Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) hated Superman because the collateral damage he caused resulted in the deaths of innocent people, but this seemed hypocritical when he barrelled through streets, killing people left and right in his Batmobile. It left me wondering if Batman had the same powers, would he not have done the same?
That being said, a philosophical, theological, ideological duel between the two characters made the first half of the movie enthralling, especially when the various minor characters gave their two cents on the situation. Holly Hunter, Diane Lane, Scoot McNairy, Laurence Fishburne all gave dedicated performances to properly articulate the argument and pit the protagonists against each other. The main cast however is a different story. Henry Cavill gives a fairly stale performance along with Amy Adams, although the latter is still better than her acting in Man of Steel. Jesse Eisenberg slightly overdid it with his ‘subtle’ mannerisms which quickly became intolerable. On the contrary, Ben Affleck portrayed both Bruce Wayne and the Dark Knight himself perfectly, perhaps the best to have ever grace the silver screen. I greatly anticipate seeing him in his solo endeavour which is rumoured to be directed by him too.
This film has had a very poor critical reception, so where did they go wrong exactly? I certainly can’t blame Zack Snyder. This film is competently directed, with some beautiful cinematography that includes references to the comic books, such as a shot which mirrors the Dark Knight Returns cover perfectly. The action sequences also look great. Batman has plenty of well-choreographed, well-shot fight scenes akin to that of Marvel’s Daredevil (2015) TV show. Nor can I blame Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL who did a great job scoring this film. Lex’s theme in particular was a beautiful and quite unique piece for the antagonist of a big-budget, blockbuster, superhero movie such as this. No, the blame lies in the studio for not having faith in their product.
We’ve seen it a thousand times. The same old story again and again: the studio is sitting on a goldmine; they have the right concept, the right director, the right cast, but they blow it because they have some world building to do. They have to let the fans know that there are five movies in the works, just in case we didn’t know already. So much so that the film is over-saturated with scenes that have no place being in the film, but are quickly inserted into the script with little thought as to how they are executed. With The Amazing Spider-Man it was the secret Oscorp basement, in Avengers: Age of Ultron it was the Thor seeing the future scene, in Batman v Superman it was a scene where Wonder Woman opens an email with videos about all the future members of the Justice League conveniently stored in one place, among many other scenes.
There was so much unnecessary exposition put into this film, it really dragged. By the end, I felt as though I was substituted a film for a 3 hour long advert for the upcoming Justice League spin-off movies. Not only this, but the execution was so messy because the pacing, balancing and editing was so out of sync: scenes that didn’t progress the plot were lingered on for too long, and vice versa. Equally parallel editing was used to inter-cut scenes together that weren’t related, and would have benefited from long takes, such as Lex Luthor’s speech at his party. He goes from confident to nervous for seemingly no reason because we constantly cut away to see Bruce Wayne sneaking around his basement, which led to an incredibly disorientating, messy, syncopated scene.
Overall I think this film had potential to be great. There are moments of brilliance and moments of sheer enjoyment, but as a whole, it is too bogged down with ‘universe-building’ that it loses track of what’s important. Hopefully the DC solo movies don’t suffer from the same issues, or audiences may skip the film and just watch the trailers instead.
Written by Sam Packer